I have never been one for big groups. At school I always had a smaller group of friends and its been the same ever since. In big groups I’m shy and anxious whereas one to one I can have proper conversations and truly be myself.
Here it’s been much of the same. During group social occasions with the rest of the staff the language barrier only amplifies my awkwardness and I often find myself observing rather than contributing. Because of this I am repeatedly faced with the question “Pourqoui tu ne parles pas Megane?”.
It’s the same at meal times. When I’m working I eat with all the kitchen staff before service begins, we all sit round a big table and they all discuss the goings on of the hotel, which I don’t know much about. I like to listen and I am able to understand more and more each time. But again, I get the question “Pourqoui tu ne parles pas Megane?” this time in a more scathing manner from the terrifying head chef.
It’s frustrating because one to one I am much better. I have made friends with another waitress, a local girl called Clara. We have loads in common including music, tv series and a deep dislike of coffee (which is very unusual for a French person). We get on really well and with her I feel so much more confident about my speaking ability. She now knows most of my life story and I am spending my day off at her house meeting her family.
As far as learning French goes, I’m aware that the more I talk the more I will improve and I’m trying to be more confident in the group settings. However, because I value the quality of my friendships over quantity, forming proper relationships here is a higher priority than making myself heard in a group. So for now I won’t let it bother me that a couple of the chefs think I’m mute, I’m happy to have made a genuine connection in another language and a friend who I know I’ll stay in contact with for years to come.